As a jazz fan with a particular soft spot for bassists, I am beyond pleased to share this interview with John Goldsby. As the bassist for the WDR Big Band, John is happily busy playing with the world’s greatest jazz musicians. His great groove, inventive ideas, and masterful technique make him one of the most respected bassists on the globe (and a personal favorite of my own). I am very honored and grateful for John’s wonderful responses.
An Interview with John Goldsby:
Aidan Plank: Is there anything you would like the WOBC audience to know about your music?
John Goldsby: I think a connection to the jazz tradition is the most important thing that I want to convey through my music. I play all types of jazz and modern improvised music, and I like to present forward-looking styles that are rooted in the traditions of the jazz legends. I have found my path by walking in the footsteps of giants.
AP: I seem to remember that you have played at Oberlin before. Is that true? And if so, what was your impression?
JG: I think I played at Oberlin years ago with Claude Bolling, a French pianist and composer. He was doing his “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano,” and “Suite for Guitar and Jazz Piano.” I don’t really remember much about Oberlin because the gig was at least 20 years ago!
AP: I am curious who influences your playing. What music really struck you as being significant as you were forming your own concept?
JG: I started out playing rock music, like many players of my generation. From rock, I discovered jazz fusion, like the ’70s music of Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report. From there, I explored ’60s jazz and then bebop. When I moved to NYC in 1980, I played mainstream, straight-ahead jazz, but then I found myself often on gigs with swing players, playing music from the ’30s and ’40s. I got into early Ellington, Basie, Jimmie Lunceford.
The thing I came to realize about all of the music that I love is that good jazz has a great groove—whether it’s Ellington from 1930, or Miles Davis from 1965. All great jazz has an underlying pulse which is compelling and joyful. There are, of course, huge technical advances in the abilities of jazz players over the years, but technique alone does not make for great music. I am inspired by the players who have a great command of rhythm, melody and drama—the ones who can really tell a story.
As for specific influences on my bass playing, I would have to say Jimmie Blanton (w/Duke Ellington), Oscar Pettiford, Red Mitchell, Paul Chambers—and countless other bass players. From a solo perspective, I’d say players like Lester Young and Sonny Rollins inspire me greatly, as do guitar players like Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Raney. Continue reading An Interview With John Goldsby